ZGBriefs | December 31, 2020

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Featured Article

Coronavirus visa uncertainty turns foreign students against China  (December 26, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Thousands of young people are waiting to hear if they will be allowed back into the country to continue their studies. Many are giving up and growing angry, as Beijing’s soft power diplomacy in education suffers.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Wuhan Covid citizen journalist jailed for four years in China crackdown  (December 28, 2020, The Guardian)
Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer and citizen journalist who was arrested in May while reporting from Wuhan, has been sentenced to four years in jail. Zhang was arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – an accusation commonly used against dissidents, activists and journalists – with her video and blog reports from the Wuhan lockdown.

Zhang Zhan: A Six-Minute Documentary  (December 28, 2020, China Change)

New Factories Next to Detention Centers Fuel Concerns Over Forced Labor in Xinjiang  (December 30, 2020, China Digital Times)
A new Buzzfeed News investigation shows that Xinjiang authorities have constructed massive factory facilities alongside internment camps where over one million ethnic minorities, primarily Uyghurs and Kazakhs, have been imprisoned. The investigation alleges that the detention camp factories use detainees’ forced, often unpaid, labor. 

Hong Kongers who tried to flee to Taiwan jailed in China for up to 3 years  (December 30, 2020, CNN)
en Hong Kongers who attempted to flee the city by speedboat to Taiwanhave been jailed in China for up to three years for organizing and taking part in an illegal border crossing. The activists — most of whom were on bail or facing charges in Hong Kong related to last year’s anti-government protests — were caught by the Chinese coast guard in August as they attempted to escape to the self-governing island of Taiwan, about 700 kilometers (440 miles) away.

US Navy’s Hong Kong port calls likely to be scuppered as ties with China’s military continue to deteriorate  (December 30, 2020, South China Morning Post)
In 2020, no American warships visited Hong Kong, a situation that is likely to continue after the Covid-19 pandemic  ends and relations deteriorate further.


Cancel Christmas?  (December 25, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Most of my adult life has been spent in countries where the holiday has some sort of boundary placed around it. Too foreign. Too religious. Too unscientific. Christmas was written out of textbooks. Sometimes forbidden. Santa usually receives a pass, but not the babe of Bethlehem. God incarnate. Still the story is told. His children continue to share this historical event. We celebrate in creative/messy, accurate/inaccurate, bold/timid, personal and impersonal ways. What about this year?

In One Of China’s Rare Catholic Communities, Christmas Is A Colorful Mix Of Customs  (December 25, 2020, NPR)
The rare Catholic community has survived more than 150 years here in the village of Cizhong, just a few dozen kilometers away from the border with both China’s Tibetan region and Myanmar. Their traditions are a colorful mixture of Buddhist and Christian practices. The church embodies this amalgamation: painted Buddhist lotuses spiral around the balustrades, while Tibetan yin and yang symbols panel the ceiling.

Chinese Church Voices—Top 10 for 2020  (December 29, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
The outbreak of Covid-19 in China and its effect on the church and people of China was the major story in 2020—but it was not the only story. Here are the top ten articles you, our CCV readers, were paying most attention to during this remarkable year.

A Dictionary for Learning Theological Chinese  (December 30, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In this post, I want to spotlight a fantastic resource specifically designed for English speakers who do cross-cultural ministry to Chinese speakers. It is a dictionary of Chinese vocabulary and prayers in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Nuns arrested as Beijing turns up heat on Church in Hong Kong  (December 30, 2020, Reuters)
Senior clerics see the arrests as a sign China wants to shut the unofficial Vatican mission in Hong Kong, where the two nuns work. As Beijing tightens control of the city, the local diocese has also moved to rein in pro-democracy voices in its flock.

Society / Life

Chinese Attitudes Toward Immigrants: Emerging, Divided Views  (December 21, 2020, The Diplomat)
Chinese attitudes toward immigration are growing more diverse, with many remaining neutral or positive despite alarming headlines. 

How a Woman’s Can’t-Stand-It-Anymore Road Trip Inspired China  (December 25, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Tired of her abusive husband, 56-year-old Su Min took the car and left. Her journey made her an icon for China’s unhappy housewives.

China’s 2020 in Photos  (December 28, 2020, Sixth Tone)
These photos show the difficult news that can completely alter our lives, and also efforts made by ordinary people in response.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s Regulators Tell Ant Group To Overhaul Business  (December 28, 2020, NPR)
Chinese regulators have ordered Ant Group, the mobile payments company run by billionaire Jack Ma, to overhaul major aspects of its business — a move that follows a scuttled IPO and comes just days after regulators announced an investigation of affiliate Alibaba.

How digital technology is transforming China’s economy  (December 28, 2020, East Asia Forum)
Digital technology is changing the Chinese economy, making it more convenient, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, replacing labour and improving user experience. This is particularly important as China has a rapidly ageing population. In many areas, robots and AI may substitute for labour, helping to ease the labour shortage problem.

EU agrees investment deal with China to rebalance ties  (December 30, 2020, Reuters)
The European Union and China agreed on Wednesday to an investment deal that will give European companies greater access to Chinese markets and help redress what Europe sees as unbalanced economic ties. […]  Companies that could benefit include Daimler, BMW, Peugeot, Allianz and Siemens, all with a large presence in China.


Chinese University of Hong Kong to ‘Restructure’ China Study Center  (December 24, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
Moves are afoot to restructure the Universities Service Center for Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), RFA has learned. The center’s director Pierre Landry has apparently offered to resign amid plans to “reorganize” the center, according to an internal email seen by RFA’s Cantonese Service and people working at CUHK.

Beijing cases change some school breaks  (December 30, 2020, China Daily)
Beijing’s primary and middle schools will move up their winter vacation time because the capital has continued to report new local COVID-19 cases, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission said.

China’s Tiger Parents Find a New Obsession: Cambridge English  (December 30, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Families are taking drastic measures to allow their kids to sit the massively oversubscribed language tests, hoping to gain an edge in China’s fierce competition for school places.

Health / Environment

China Passes Landmark Law to Protect ‘Mother River’ Yangtze  (December 28, 2020 Sixth Tone)
The Yangtze River Protection Law is the first river basin legislation in the country and covers a range of issues, from curbing water pollution to protecting endangered aquatic-species and relocating hazard chemical plants. The law includes the Yangtze River mainstream, as well as its tributaries and connected lakes, covering 19 different regions.

China Covid-19: Nearly 500,000 in Wuhan may have had virus, says study  (December 30, 2020, BBC)
Almost 5% of the people in the Chinese city of Wuhan may have been infected with Covid-19, a study by researchers at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has shown. Wuhan’s population is estimated at 11 million, which suggests that almost 500,000 people may have had the virus. If true, that is almost 10 times higher than Wuhan’s officially recorded number of 50,354 cases.

China clamps down in hidden hunt for coronavirus origins  (December 30, 2020, AP)
More than a year since the first known person was infected with the coronavirus, an AP investigation shows the Chinese government is strictly controlling all research into its origins, clamping down on some while actively promoting fringe theories that it could have come from outside China.

25 Days That Changed the World: How Covid-19 Slipped China’s Grasp  (December 30, 2020, The New York Times)
Politics stymied science, in a tension that would define the pandemic. China’s delayed initial response unleashed the virus on the world and foreshadowed battles between scientists and political leaders over transparency, public health and economics that would play out across continents.

Science / Technology

China’s Long March 8 rocket successful in debut launch  (December 26, 2020, Spaceflight Now)
A new Chinese launch vehicle, the Long March 8, has successfully placed five payloads into orbit on its first mission, debuting an expendable booster intended to eventually be outfitted for recovery and reuse. The Long March 8 rocket took off from the Wenchang satellite launch center on Hainan Island, China’s newest spaceport, at 11:37 p.m. EST Dec. 21 (0437 GMT; 12:37 p.m. Beijing time Dec. 22), Chinese space program officials said.

Travel / Food

Tourism restrictions tightened for holidays  (December 30, 2020, China Daily)
With sporadic cases reported in recent weeks, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will continue to suspend travel agencies’ services for group trips leaving or coming into the Chinese mainland over the holidays, the ministry’s senior officials said at a news conference on Monday. 

Language / Language Learning

The Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Media in 2020 (咬文嚼字)  (December 30, 2020, What’s on Weibo)
These are some of the expressions and idioms that have been buzzing in Chinese media in 2020. What’s on Weibo’s Jialing Xie explains.

Living Cross-culturally

Christmas on Ice  (December 29, 2020, Sinosplice)
I don’t like talking about politics much, and I’m not not one to be alarmist about the CCP, even as it becomes increasingly authoritarian in its actions. But this Christmas, I did feel something kind of like a vice tightening on foreigners’ already limited religious freedom here. There’s definitely been an increased sense of “we’re not really wanted here” in the foreign community in Shanghai this year.


50 of the Best New Books on China for the Holidays and Winter 2020/2021  (December 25, 2020, What’s on Weibo)
What’s on Weibo lists the 50 best China books for winter reading 2020/2021, with China non-fiction and fiction books that have come out in English recently.

Pray for China

January 4  (Pray for China: A Walk Through  History)
On Jan. 4, 1991, Pastor Yuexiu (约秀牧师) went to be with the Lord at age 80; he was from Liwudi Village, Fugong County, Yunnan, and was the first Lisu pastor. During the missionary era, Yuexiu (also known as A’cun-阿寸) became a Christian as a teenager and worked closely with Allyn and Leila Cooke in evangelism and Bible translation. The Lisu New Testament translation was completed in 1937, together with a hymnal and catchecism. A flourishing church grew among the Lisu in China and Burma. After the missionaries were expelled by the new communist government, almost all these materials were destroyed. However, in the 1980s, Yuexiu worked hard to obtain a copy of a complete Lisu Bible that had been published in Hong Kong in 1968. By then an ordained pastor and holding leadership positions in the Three Self Church, Yuexiu was able to get copies printed in Kunming. Many young Lisu have left the mountains to work in urban areas and have drifted from the faith. Pray for young Lisu in Yunnan to love God’s Word and live according to His lovingkindness. Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules. Psalm 119:156

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio